What would you do if all of your client data was suddenly gone?
Web-based applications are now an integral component of virtually every American’s life, both personal and professiongal. From online banking programs for consumers, to professional programs that once were installed on local computers and servers, the benefits of these software-as-a-service systems is that they are instantly accessible from anywhere, allowing us to be more mobile, and yet still as productive, if not more so.
This does mean, of course, that some of our personal or professional data is hosted outside of our personal control – it’s “in the cloud” – stored on remote servers that are usually owned and managed by major data hosting providers like Amazon, by the technology developers themselves, such as Intuit, Thomson Reuters, CCH and BNA, or through third-party providers, such as Iron Mountain, SmartVault and Acct1st. A new addition to the market, and built specifically for CPAs, is the ?CPA.com Data Backup Solution? offered by CPA2Biz.
The primary concern of all computer users should always be security, especially those in professions such as accounting, tax compliance, financial advisory services and others that manage sensitive client information. However, over the 15-plus years that online programs and web-based backup have been available, it has been proven that online storage is not only secure, but is actually safer and more reliable than simply keeping the information on your office computers or servers, even when you perform backups in-house.
With Data Backup, Humans are the Weakest Link.
The main reason for this is the human element. As with any technology, a data backup routine is only as effective as the weakest component, and human error is the most common contributor to lost data. Whether it’s getting lax on backups and performing them less and less frequently, storing the backups or having a backup drive located in the same office with the computers, or being too casual with passwords and office security protocols.
While it is easy to see the potential danger of theft related to the final point, the problem with where the backup is located becomes a factor when dealing with natural disasters or fires that may damage your office building and the contents within it. This wouldn’t result in unauthorized access to the sensitive information, but suddenly losing all of your client information and their tax, accounting and financial data would have a crushing effect on your practice.
After the “weakest link” human factor, the most common cause of data loss without a fire, theft or natural disaster is system crashes. It’s a simple fact of life in the technology age that we live in, that hard drives fail, including those in external backup devices. When this happens, sometimes the data can be recovered, but with total crashes, all is lost. The odds of both your computer and external hard drive failing simultaneously are about nil, but if you haven’t been maintaining a near-perfect backup routine then you may still lose days or weeks worth of client activity. This wouldn’t necessarily result in a total failure of your firm, but the time spent recreating that data would put incredible stress on staff and clients alike.
How Web-Based Backup Avoids these Pitfalls.
The first way to dramatically improve the reliability of data backups is to take humans out of the picture. Yes, as I noted above, technology fails at times, too, but us humans are more likely to forget even routine things. A central feature to almost all web-based backup systems available for both consumers and professionals businesses is that, after initial setup, they automatically perform the functions at pre-scheduled times (such as in the middle of the night, so it doesn’t slow down your computers while you and your staff are using them).